Our Best Advice

It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste. – Henry Ford

This week marks the last couple of days at Southwest Michigan First for our summer interns. Over the next couple of days, they will slowly trickle out our doors, heading back to their college stomping grounds. Last week, we officially said “goodbye” during a team lunch in which we celebrated our interns and all that they had accomplished during their internships. During this lunch, each one of our team members went around the room and shared some excellent parting advice with our youngest team members. Take a look and please pass this along to any college students, interns or young professionals you know.

In School:

  • Stay active while being a full-time student, meaning volunteer, get a part-time job or join a fraternity or sorority.  Expand your relationships and network.  This will be more attractive to potential employers who are seeking young talent that do more than just attend classes day in and day out.
  • Take advantage of all the opportunities that you can. The more doors you open, the more opportunities you have. Enjoy college and leave knowing you got the most out of the experience.
  • Embrace failure.  In school, there is a ton of pressure to get good grades, be perfect and to not fail.  In business and in life, however, the only way to improve is through failure.  So take big risks.  What we typically call failure is actually that irreplaceable asset called experience.

Vintage eyeglasses on book


On The Job:

  • During an interview, answer the questions that are asked of you, but don’t get off too far into the weeds.  When the employer asks if you have any questions for them, have some!
  • Make a habit of asking for feedback of your performance. Your boss and colleagues will look to you as someone who is consistently looking to raise the bar, and it opens the door for feedback even when it’s not time for an actual “performance evaluation.”
  • Be eager to take on new projects! This is something we look for in interns as well as new team members! An explicit “hunger” to learn and contribute to the organization is what all great organizations recognize and cherish.
  • Be humble. There is nothing more powerful than an amazingly talented person that recognizes both the talent in others and the flaws within himself/herself.  You can’t become a thought-leader or expert when you are too busy trying to pretend that you already are one.
  • In order to break the rules, you have to first understand them. Get in, learn the organization, develop your craft, respect current processes and then look for ways to improve upon everything.
  • Don’t be too aggressive or cocky. Simply, do the right thing at the right time and your work will speak for itself.
  • Be faithful with the “little things.” It’s the little things that separate great from good, and if you handle those things well, you will absolutely be given bigger projects and more responsibility.
  • Leave well. Your last few weeks on a job say way more about you than your first few weeks on a job. If you decide to move on to a new opportunity, make sure you leave better than you came – that is what people will remember.

In Life:

  • Never let someone else (a parent, a friend, a significant other) keep you from doing something that you feel is best for your future.
  • It’s all about who you know.  Leverage the relationships that you have today and continue to build and foster new relationships throughout your entire journey. You never know where those paths will cross again in the future.
  • Fall in love with who you are, and try every day to be authentic to it. Don’t seek to be famous or important, seek to be impactful in a way that’s unique to who you are.
  • Don’t allow negative people to steal your passion; they haven’t earned it.
  • Never just settle with something.  Always give whatever it is your best effort.  Also, love whatever you do. If you don’t love it or have passion for it then move on until you find your love.

Always Forward.

Question: What advice would you add to our list?